Friday, October 8, 2010

David Gibson at Commonweal on Catholic Response to Gay Teen Suicides Due to Bullying

David Gibson has written an outstanding piece at the Commonweal blog site re: Catholic responses to gay bullying.  This links to a more extensive statement about the same topic (well, more precisely about religious soul-searching in light of gay bullying deaths) at the Politics Daily site.

To my mind, Gibson frames his Commonweal posting precisely right by noting how tragically out of touch some Catholic bishops' focus on gay marriage is with the reality of bullying of gay youths, brought home to us by the recent suicides of several youths across the country.  In fact, as Gibson also notes, some bishops fighting same-sex marriage are also fighting anti-bullying laws that include sexual orientation as a targeted category, on the ground that these laws would be a slippery slope leading to endorsement of gay rights including marriage.  Gibson links to an article noting that the Catholic bishops of North Carolina are fighting anti-bullying legislation in their state for this reason.

This behavior strikes me as tragic and more: it strikes me as dangerously irresponsible, when the lives of vulnerable youth are at stake.  I happen to know of one sitting U.S. Catholic bishop whose own brother committed suicide, and I also happen to know that the brother was at a meeting of a support group for gay youth in his city a few days before he died.

I know this because a friend of mine who lives in the city, and who is a therapist, was at that meeting, noticed that the young man seemed disturbed, and spoke with him.  His strong impression as a therapist was that the young man was deeply depressed because his strongly conservative Catholic family did not accept him as a gay man.  My friend offered him his card and asked him to call if he needed to talk.  A few days later, the young man killed himself.  His brother is now opposing anti-bullying legislation that includes sexual orientation in its targeted categories.

I suppose what I want to say here is that it is one thing to play fast and free with the lives of the young people in one's own family.  But stories like this--or the story of the death of Tyler Clementi and the other young folks who have died in recent weeks--suggest to us that someone's child is being affected, somewhere, by our callousness about the problem of gay teen bullying.  And by our certainty that we are so right re: the morality of homosexuality that we can risk the lives of someone else's children as we try to prove our point.  And to force our moral views on society at large.

Gibson ends his posting by noting that he has not seen any statements by senior Catholic church leaders or bishops about the problem of suicides of gay youths due to bullying.  I haven't, either.  And what a colossal indictment of the leadership of the Catholic church at present.

Meanwhile, anywhere these issues are being discussed at online forums by Catholics outside the fringe right, where the blame-the-victim meme remains dominant (youth seduced into unhealthy gay lifestyle kill themselves when they discover how unhealthy it is), I find lively, sympathetic, ethically acute analysis of this issue on the part of many lay Catholics.

Something is going to have to give soon in the Catholic church in the U.S., as leaders like Archbishop Nienstedt try to turn the church into a homophobic propaganda machine for a homophobic political party, while a large percentage of Catholic layfolks increasingly support and fight for the rights of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.   When a church's entrenched leadership elite is on such a collision course with the people who fund that church, a collision can't be too far off.
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